An Iran Breakthrough?
The blogosphere reacts. Joshua Pollack:
It’s easy to get absorbed in the minutiae of site-specific safeguards and takeback arrangements, so let’s keep in mind what the parties really seem to be getting. Iran can duck the worst of the fallout from the Qom affair and gain implicit acceptance of its enrichment activities. (Emphasis on “implicit.”) The P5+1 can put time back on the clock by getting that 1,200 kg LEU out of the country. And in the implementation phase, the sides will be able to test each other’s intentions and create some trust at the working level, assuming there are no major hitches.
Like all purchases of information...this one comes at a cost. The P5+1 have had to accept the uranium enrichment which Iran has conducted in recent years in defiance of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Even if it ultimately does not reach a deal to send its LEU abroad, Iran will surely seek to pocket this concession and declare a measure of victory. Similarly, by presenting the admission of IAEA inspectors to the until-recently-covert Qom enrichment plant as a concession, Iran gains tacit international acceptance of a facility built in defiance of its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.
One reason for the sea change is the domestic discomfort inside Iran. Still smarting from the June 12 unrest, Tehran has some tough decisions to make in the coming months on public gas subsidies and declining oil prices are limiting Iranian optionsto fulfill domestic consumption needs, the country must diversify its energy production. Multilateral or unilateral sanctions are not something they can afford at this time. But I believe it was Washington's acknowledgment of those energy needs and nuclear rights that have made a big difference in getting Tehran to play ball on this.
Ultimately, Iran can still cheat and wiggle its way toward a bomb but - like North Korea during the 1990s Agreed Framework - they'll have to work their way there along a more torturous path. Not ideal, but with an Iranian population clearly hostile to its current regime, any play for time is valuable.
[U]nless Iran’s enrichment activities are verifiably suspended, the deal will gain only a little time for the international community. Part of the reason for the deal stems from a desire to reduce Iran’s LEU stockpile to the point where Iran does not have sufficient declared fissile material to build a nuclear weapon (once it’s been reprocessed). It is generally agreed that the minimum quantity of LEU required to do that is approximately one ton and Iran would transfer more than that to Russia and France if the deal were reached. But Iran is currently capable of enriching 2.77 Kgs of uranium per day, on average, at least according to recent IAEA reports. At that pace, Iran would replenish the stockpile in less than a year if enrichment continues.
I worry about the specifics of financing here....One of the main reasons the Agreed Framework [with North Korea] collapsed in 2002 was because the Republican Congress refused to adequately fund the construction of nuclear reactors in North Korea, a key American obligation under the agreement. If a combination of conservatives and hawkish liberals in Congress is able to block or limit funding for the fuel transfer in Iran, it would seriously undermine the administration's ability to negotiate a broader deal. After all, what incentive would Iran have to make a deal when America politically cannot hold up its end of the bargain?
If implemented, such a plan would conceivably put several months back on the clock to try to resolve international concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The deal seemingly offers Iran the appearance of de facto international recognition of its enrichment program, if not acceptance. It also gives Iran and world powers a chance to see if the other comes through on their side of the deal.
This would represent the first time that anyone has succeeded in putting time back on the Iranian nuclear clock. It would be a major diplomatic victory for Obama, and for the Forces Of Good in general. A nuclear Iran is in no one’s interest.
(Photo: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohammed El Baradei gives short speech after the meeting of representatives from France, Iran, Russia and the United States at Agency's headquarters in Vienna on October 21, 2009. A draft agreement has been drawn up after talks between Iran, Russia, the United States and France on supply of enriched uranium to Tehran and sent to capitals for approval by October 23, 2009, UN watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said. By Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images).